tossing seeds willy-nilly?

noinwiJanuary 5, 2007

I'm not sure if this is the proper forum to ask this question, but here goes...

Has anyone just tossed flower seed(wildflower or otherwise)over a grassed area to see what comes up? There is a steep hillside behind my apartment building that the city used to maintain, but the last couple of years it has not even been mowed. There are a few shade trees(apple, catalpa, ash)spread out over the hillside and deer will sleep under the apple tree on occasion. Mostly it's just grass and weeds. Would any seeds come up through this? It gets early morning and late afternoon sun. I was thinking of getting some bulk wildflower seeds and just scattering them in early spring. Any opinions or advice is appreciated.

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Judy_B_ON(Ontario 5B)

Bulk seed mixes, unless purchased from a native plant seed source usually contain mostly non native garden annuals. Whether native or not, little would come up as the seeds need good contact with the soil to germinate which means removing the grass. Once germinated, the seedlings would have trouble in the shade of the grass and would have trouble competing for soil nutrients as well. Some of the "weeds" may be native plants that have self seeded.

Left alone, the hillside will likely eventually revert to woodland although there will be a lot of weedy non native trees. If you don't like the appearance, inform your local bylaw enforcement people as there are usually laws against letting weeds grow. Or learn to enjoy the deer and the natural look.

    Bookmark   January 5, 2007 at 5:01PM
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noinwi

Thanks, Judy, I kind of expected it wouldn't work, but hey...thought I'd give it a shot.
The slope belongs to the city. According to one of the other tenants, they decided a few years ago to let it return to "habitat"...I guess that includes letting people toss their trash and lawn clippings.
There are a few native plants(aster, goldenrod), but also non-natives(knapweed,honeysuckle,burdock)along with a few ornamentals planted long ago(lilac, shrub rose). It would be nice to see some native shrubs planted, but it's just being left as is.
I don't mind the deer at all, but having that one slope overgrown in the middle of a neighborhood just looks kind of shabby and the bottom of the slope is only 20' from our building (there's no border between our yard and the slope).I guess I'll just have to keep looking the other way. Sorry to whine. I appreciate your info.

    Bookmark   January 5, 2007 at 8:41PM
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davidl_ny5

I'd think the city was responsible for cleaning up trash and such, even if it's decided not to mow. Otherwise, I think Judy is right about the seeds -- it would take a lot more work to rehab this area than just throwing a seed mix in. Even if you had native seeds, you'd need to prepare the ground for them. I'm surprised you don't have more saplings of various types coming up. (It would be prime maple and wild cherry territory here, unless there were ailanthus around or some other spreading type like locust, then they'd be there too.)

    Bookmark   January 5, 2007 at 9:39PM
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purdydirty

You could always take the initiative. It might not be as easy as tossing seed "willy nilly" but with a little work you could become a proud participant in a restoration effort. If your sure something there is non-native then go ahead and pull it.You might even consider planting some natives, although you should be carefull not to overdue it and be sure that anything you plant is site appropriate. Remember that the first rule of restoration is DO NO HARM, so please avoid do Anything willy nilly, but if its right there for you to look at every day then it might be worth a small bit of your effort.

    Bookmark   January 6, 2007 at 12:35AM
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noinwi

Thank you all for your input. This area is approx 100' long by approx 20' deep(top to bottom), so it's not a huge area. There's a large oak at one end, a large lilac, a catalpa, an apple tree, and an ash(I think), all spaced out along the strip. Along a portion of the bottom edge(at the edge of our yard) is an old overgrown perennial bed(about 15' long) that some of the tenants are trying to clean up. It's difficult as we are elderly and/or disabled, but some of us refuse to give up gardening. Apparently years ago the slope was mowed regularly and that's probably why there isn't many saplings, aside from the honeysuckle and lilac suckers, and a walnut sapling, compliments of the squirrels. The only thing the city does is remove any branches that break and fall. I'll look into contacting someone from the city maintenance dept. and see if we can add a few native plants here and there. Maybe they'll offer to clean up the area a bit. I'll let you know what I find out.

    Bookmark   January 6, 2007 at 1:30AM
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maden_theshade(8 - Austin)

Ask the city if they can mow it now. Then at least the grass and weeds will be shorter and it will be easier to put out seeds, etc. If they can't do it, do you know anyone with a handy grandson? It doesn't sound like a large area. It is so terrible that people are using this as a dumping ground. :-(

Check out the Guerrilla Gardening website to see others who are beautifying neglected areas!

Here is a link that might be useful: Guerrilla Gardening - fighting the filth with flowers!

    Bookmark   January 7, 2007 at 8:22PM
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ladyslppr(z6 PA)

If you want to introduce wildflowers that can compete with established grasses you'll need to pick the toughest wildflowers. A few suggestions include Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca), Canada goldenrod, jerusalem Artichoke, Wild sunflowers (Helianthus spp - the perennial ones like Helianthus microcephalus) - I am suggesting mostly large, vigorous species that spread vegetatively by rhizomes or stolons to form clumps. You could start these along the back edge of the perennial bed and lit them slowly spread uphill. it will take a while to make a big difference on the hillside, but I think this is one way you could get started without tackling the whole hill and the existing sod.

    Bookmark   January 18, 2007 at 12:58PM
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nvteecy(z5IL)

There is a method called "sow and mow" that might be useful. You must use native seeds that are appropriate for your area. Mow the grass low in the fall, sow the seeds, and mow for the next 2-3 years - a couple times each season, to keep the unwanted grasses from overshadowing and overpowering the natives. The native wildflowers will spend time putting down roots even when you are mowing the top (not too close 4-5") and when you stop mowing, they take over. Would be good to seed each fall for the 2-3 years, too.

    Bookmark   January 19, 2007 at 2:56PM
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nywoodsman

Keep in mind that the resident deer will do alot more"gardening"then you will,and they will be a large determiner of what will grow and what won't.They usually love natives,to death.

    Bookmark   January 19, 2007 at 3:40PM
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noinwi

The deer around here are don't do a ton of damage, but they stroll through town and cut across the hillside, stopping at the apple tree when it's fruiting, and then continue on towards the local feed store where piles of corn and other grains are dumped(much to the delight of the local wildlife). Occasionally they walk through our raised veggie bed and sample a few things. Depending on what info I get from the city, I'm thinking of just clearing little areas on the hill and planting some 'deer resistant'(native)perennials here and there and see how they do...echinacea, rudbeckia,etc, basically the same things that the state plants along the highways. Thanks all for the great suggestions!

    Bookmark   January 20, 2007 at 7:04PM
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susanlynne48(OKC7a)

I've always thought that the old adage, "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em" as appropriate when dealing with wildlife. The fact that the feed store obviously provides the deer with top quality food, has deterred them from eating your vegetation. It's like my neighborhood cats. I grow catmint for them, and they don't bother anything else in the garden. Provide them with another point of interest, and they leave the other things alone.

I am surprised that catalpa grows in your area - didn't realize it was that hardy. They grow prolifically here in OKC, and because of the catalpa worms that attack them, are more of a nuisance than anything. I love sphinx moths and plant a lot of things to attract them, but catalpas produce an overabundance of them. I know a lot of folks use the caterpillars as fish bait, but I doubt they use an entire tree's worth of caterpillars. I have heard that in the wild, the caterpillars climb down the trees when they are preparing to pupate in the ground, and a lot of raccoons and other wild critters are eagerly awaiting a nice snack then.

I hope you figure out how to deal with the land. Maybe the city would come remove the sod for you? It would not only benefit you, but the city as well. You would then have to work the soil (add more nutrients in the form of compost, manure, etc.), maybe put up some weed barrier on the ground, and then plant it. If there's any bermuda grass in there, you would have to have some kind of weed barrier. Did I tell you I hate bermuda grass? A weed barrier of cloth, would also prevent erosion while your plants are growing.

If you've never tried winter sowing, you could do that and have ready-to-plant material in spring instead of tossing seed willy-nilly. Milkweed is a good thing to plant - the Monarchs really need more of their native host plants. Look for the species that are indigenous to your area.

Just a few suggestions.

Susan

    Bookmark   January 22, 2007 at 9:01AM
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noinwi

Interesting info on the Catalpa, Susan, I didn't know what it was when we first moved here and I was in awe when it bloomed. I immediately went online to find out about it. The seed pods are pretty cool.
I winter sowed for the first time last year, and will be trying it again soon, but I'm limited on space. That is, I can't be putting a bunch of containers out on the grounds without it looking unsightly. This is a 10 unit one story apartment building and the management is quite picky about "stuff" in the yard. There are no permanent plantings aside from a few shade trees and shrubs(in the main yard)and the little perennial strip at the base of the slope.
Your suggestions are greatly appreciated, but, LOL, I don't need to plant milkweed...it's everywhere. I'll let you know what I end up planting :D

    Bookmark   January 23, 2007 at 3:22AM
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